Baltimore bicyclist has his say
Every once and a while I get an email that's worth a blog post of its own. This, written by Baltimore bicyclist Jeffrey Marks, is one of them:
After returning from a wonderful bicycle trip in the bicycle friendly cities of Seattle WA and Victoria, BC; I was saddened by the tragic death of long time bicyclist John Yates. Yes, it appears John was riding on Maryland Ave where many motorists expect bicyclists to ride - as far right as possible - when he collided with a truck making a righthand turn onto Lafayette Ave. However, from personal experience of having nearly had a similar tragic accident on Charles Street when bicycling close to parked cars; I find it safer to take the lane, rather than ride as far right as possible. Speed limits are low to moderate, and overtaking traffic can use the passing lane. My behaving like a vehicle encourages right turning motorists to treat me like one by slowing down, signaling, moving behind me or to my right near the curb, and turning right when safe. - rather than being tempted to rush by and cut me off.
Other reasons for bicyclists taking the lane include (but aren't limited to) riding the same speed as traffic, avoiding the risk of an opening car door, and substandard width lanes that are too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely share side by side. The free Yellow Booklet, "Safe Bicycling in Maryland", endorsed and distributed by the Md Dept of Transportation, gives these and many other helpful tips on how to bicycle safely in traffic.
Bicyclists have all the rights granted to and are subject to all of the duties required by the driver of a motor vehicle. Road courtesy is most important. On highways where bicyclists are moving slower than the speed of traffic, cyclists should use smooth bikelanes or shoulders when available and share those outside lanes that are wide enough to accommodate a bicyclist and a motor vehicle side by side. Drivers should allow bicyclists 3 feet when passing. Sharing narrow two lane roads requires extra cooperation and courtesy. Motorists should exercise patience and good judgment in waiting until it's safe to pass a bicyclist. If traffic stacks up, a slow moving bicyclist should use a righthand pullout or driveway, if available, to allow faster traffic to safely pass. Safety, not speed, comes first.
Sharing the road and encouraging safe bicycling offers many rewards ranging from better health by reducing obesity, independence, reduced congestion, cleaner air, and equality for those people who don't own cars. Be safe.
Jeffrey H. Marks
As a once and (I hope) future bicyclist, I endorse Marks' remarks. People driving large motor vehicles have an obligation to look out for the more vulnerable users of the road -- whether on foot, scooter, bike or motorcycle. I don't care what sins of the road they commit. Metal must yield to flesh.
I would add one comment: If you're riding a bicycle -- in the city as much as anyplace else -- wear a helmet. I'd like to think you're as invested in your life as I am. It didn't save Yates but it could save you.